Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Health Care a Right or Privilege?

Is health care a right or privilege? First, one must make the distinction between health and health care. To have one's health is a privilege. Similarly, the Declaration of Independence does not state that everyone has the right to happiness. Rather, everyone has the right to the 'pursuit of happiness.' Many people may choose not to pursue happiness. That is equally their right. Applied to health care, one might argue that someone who chooses not to live a healthy life style has made the choice not to pursue their health. Thus, they have given up their right to health care. In this context, the right to health and, therefore, health care, becomes a thorny question. However, this premise is flawed when applied to health and health care. 

The pursuit of health most commonly requires access to health care. One may have chosen to eat poorly, exercise infrequently, and become obese with other medical conditions. If this is same chronically ill person chooses to change his life, he will most likely require access to health care. The chronically ill are often disenfranchised because they have lost jobs or not well educated. They are much more likely not to have the income of their healthy counterparts. It becomes a vicious cycle with a downward spiral. The sicker one becomes the less likely they are to have the means to work and make enough money to afford health care. Without health care, they cannot get the treatment to become healthy and get back to work or living a fulfilled life. 

The measure of a great nation should be in its ability to care for its people. A great nation should give its people the access to health care and the chance to live full lives. Access to health care allows a person who (by his own choice or not) has become ill or downtrodden by poor health the chance to gain back his/her vitality. It is an obligation of the rich (the 'haves') to provide health care for the less fortunate (the 'have nots') such that all can pursue their 'right to health.' There is absolutely no greater gift a nation, through its government and the vote of its people, can give than this inalienable right. 


Ryan Carroll said...

Your presentation of the downward spiral non-universal healthcare illustrates is completely correct. In a study I read a couple months ago, the sociologists estimated that more than 39% of homeless people are suffering from some sort of mental handicap. I definitely agree that it should be somehow implemented, but as I mentioned in class, the raised taxes (which the study showed 7/10 people were willing to pay) would leave the very people the plan is trying to help even more troubled. A healthy person in poverty would not be affected other than being pushed farther into debt because he or she does not reap any benefits. My mother for example, barely made it by week by week on her low paying job as a secretary, making rent only by my father's chlid support. Now, though, that my sister and I are 18, the convenience of that money is gone, leaving her barely scraping by and on the very edge of having to move out. So, yes, universal healthcare is a must, but instead of taking it from taxes, we should instead take it out of the paycheck of Tom Brady and the rest of the professional athletes who contribute nothing to society except hard hits and impeccable hand eye coordination. If it is every going to happen, the United States must first reorder its priorities before the growing problems in our society (homeless, unemployment, football) push it completely out of reach.

Paul Bendor-Samuel said...

I agree that the measure of a great nation is how well it takes care of its people. I also agree with you that people have the right to pursue good health. What I do not agree with is the statement that the rich are obligated to provide for the poor. It is the job of the nation to provide, not the rich or well-off. Now if the wealthy feel so inclined as to help those less fortunate then they are going above and beyond the call of a good citizen. To take away from those wealthy is unfair to say the least. The whole “take from the rich and give to the poor” ideology is flawed. That ideology assumes that everyone is equal and consequently deserves the same things. I argue that people do not all deserve the same things. When you examine the peoples salutations, yes it might be true that the poor or sick often did not have many options to escape there current plight, but the wealthy very often worked very hard to get to where they are. Now if all that you are proposing is a graduated tax system, I would find that acceptable.

Allison Fish said...

I don't agree that Cat was implying that the rich should provide for the poor. I think the idea she was trying to get across was that the quality of health care directly correlates with amount of wealth, which is undeniable. Maybe those with wealth deserve to have the extensive surgical procedures that allow for survival because of their hard work, but I don't agree that the poor are any less deserving or even necessarily that their work efforts don't compare. Wealth isn't usually acquired simply through work. My biological mother, whom I do not live with, has worked practically everyday of her life but still can't manage to bring her and my sister out of poverty. I accredit this dilemma to her lack of education, having been taken out of high school in grade 9 to help take care of her siblings. Sure, she could've gotten her GED later in life and maybe found another profession than waiting tables, but things aren't always that simple or even obtainable in circumstance. I think that health care SHOULD be a right, not a privilege, because wealth is not solely dependent on hard work.

Ai said...

I believe in an idealistic world or nation even, health care would be a right. However, living in a world that puts money and power in such a high value, it is hard to obtain health care for those that doesn't have the income to do so. Even if we have universal health care, the wealthy will always have better privileges.
I don't mean to make the rich sound evil because that is often not the case. However, they do have more privileges and opportunities to many other things. That is why the poor is getting poorer and the rich is getting richer. Because even if there is a school or free hospital built in poor areas, the quality and standard of living is still much worst.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that having health care/universal health care should be a right, but having quality health care is a privilege.

ThomasJ said...

The US government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the war in the Middle East and with our economy in decline it does not have the time to focus on healthcare. This situation, however, does not make the rich powerless. They posses the ability to change the healthcare system in this country. The wealthy people in the United States may be the only hope for the people without healthcare. It comes down to whether or not they feel like they are obligated to use their power to improve our society. There are rich people who feel this way, including Bill Gates, who founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the health of people not only in the US, but the health of people across the world. Hopefully there will be more rich people who feel this way in the future.
All other countries in the developed world have found a way to provide universal healthcare to their citizens. It doesn’t matter if they change jobs, or lose their jobs, they remain covered. The United States should be able to find a way to provide the same coverage. It may be that insurance companies are the problem. Why should they profit, mostly by denying coverage? It would help business and the economy if people could change jobs without having to worry about getting sick and not being able to afford medical care, for themselves or their children. The rich have a part to play, whether they want to do it voluntarily, or whether the government has to encourage them.
Healthcare should be both a right and a privilege. American citizens should be guaranteed the right to healthcare. It seems immoral that the US allows money to stand between poor people and good health. I feel privileged to have healthcare and I know that the citizens of this country who do not have enough money to afford it would feel the same way if it was provided.